Walmart, CVS and Walgreens ordered to pay $650 million to Ohio counties for opioid crisis
A federal judge on Thursday ordered three major pharmacy chains to pay more than $650 million to two Ohio counties for their roles in fueling the opioid epidemic by improperly dispensing drugs.
U.S. District Court Judge Dan Aaron Polster ordered Walmart, CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens to pay a total of $650.5 million to Lake County and Trumbull County over the next 15 years. In the lawsuit, the companies were accused of oversupplying opioids through their pharmacies, contributing to the opioid crisis.
“The Court concludes it is appropriate to order the Pharmacy Defendants to pay immediately into an Abatement Fund two-years worth of these amounts, or a total of $86.7 Million,” the order read.
The plaintiffs had originally sought settlements in the billions, but Polster concluded that a reduction was “necessary to account for opioid addiction and abuse that would have occurred even in the absence of the Defendants’ wrongful conduct.”
Polster wrote that it was “equitable and fair” for the companies to be responsible for one-third of the cost needed to address the damage caused from the opioid crisis in the two Ohio counties.
Trumbull County Commissioner Frank Fuda said he hoped this order was the “beginning of the long road to recovery for the people of Trumbull County.”
“For years, the dedicated frontline workers of Trumbull County have fought to address the harms of the opioid crisis,” Fuda said in a statement provided to The Hill. “The news today means that we will soon have the long-awaited resources necessary to extend aid to properly address the harms caused by this devastating epidemic.
Lake County Commissioner John Hamercheck similarly praised the order, saying, “Today marks the start of a new day in our fight to end the opioid epidemic.”
“Lake County remains committed to continuing the critical relief work performed by our incredible frontline workers consistent with the court’s ruling,” said Hamercheck.
When reached for comment, all three companies said they intended to appeal the ruling.
In a statement, Walmart accused the plaintiffs of seeking “deep pockets” to sue and said the trial was riddled with “remarkable legal and factual mistakes.”
“Instead of addressing the real causes of the opioid crisis, like pill mill doctors, illegal drugs and regulators asleep at the switch, plaintiffs’ lawyers wrongly claimed that pharmacists must second-guess doctors in a way the law never intended and many federal and state health regulators say interferes with the doctor-patient relationship,” Walmart said.
“The facts and the law did not support the jury verdict last fall, and they do not support the court’s decision now. The court committed significant legal errors in allowing the case to go before a jury on a flawed legal theory that is inconsistent with Ohio law and compounded those errors in reaching its ruling regarding damages,” said a representative for Walgreens, adding that the company intended to appeal the ruling.
A representative for CVS said they “strongly disagree” with the decision and said the company looked forward to the appeal review of the case as well as the “misapplication of public nuisance law.”